260 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
Indeed, the first difficulty of ordinary scholars is not so much
that of holding the pen as the accompanying one of keeping
the hand light, of lifting instead of leaning on the hand. (The
scholar makes the chalk screech on the blackboard, the pen scrape
on the paper, and often breaks the chalk and the pen; he has
grasped and dragged the instrument convulsively, but his effort is that
of struggling against the unsupportable weight of his feeble hand.)
Besides, the quite unco-ordinated hand cannot execute signs
so precise as those of the letters of the alphabet. Such an act is.
suited only to a hand which is akeady capable of guiding itself
steadily. What is called * firm hand,' a hand under the control
of the will, is a condition necessary to fit it for writing.
To acquire these long exercises, patiently repeated, are
required and if they have to be mixed up with learning to write,
that is, if the hand, clumsy and unfitted for writing, has to be trained
by writing, it will constitute the greatest obstacle to the progress
By our method, however, little children have acquired a hand
which is practised and ready to write.
When in the course of the sense exercises they move the hand
in various directions and with various objects in view, but repeating
in the same way the same actions, they unconsciously are preparing
for writing. Let us consider some of the exercises already carried
out by our children.
THE THREE FINGERS WHICH MOVE THE INSTRUMENT
As the age of three the children disarrange the cylinders of
the solid insets, holding with the three fingers the grip-button
which is nearly of the same size as a writing implement. The
three fingers carry out, for an infinite number of times, that exercise
which co-ordinates the motor organs intended for writing.
THE LIGHT HAND
Watch the little one of three and a, half, who bathes the tips
of his fingers in tepid water, and with bandaged eyes devotes his